Novembers Doom – Bled White (The End Records)Sunday, 29th June 2014
Career arcs in a band ideally resemble life experience. We learn, we mature, we consistently transform based on all the sensory input and challenges placed before us, and come out refocused, regenerated, and renewed to face a new world. Chicago’s Novembers Doom on their ninth studio album Bled White epitomize this evolving, never stagnant philosophy, unleashing 11 more stunning doom/ death tracks that contain certain melancholic passages and riff/verse/hook combinations familiar to their fans, yet offer a new nuance or two to keep this release intriguing.
Musically, guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese layer their parts in such a way that you can’t help but be swept into the darker, brooding chord progressions for “Heartfelt” and shorter, straightforward but semi up-tempo follow up “The Brave Pawn,” the latter featuring some of their most brutal classic death songwriting in quite a while. Bassist Mike Feldman and drummer Garry Naples place equal emphasis on maintaining a solid bottom foundation as they do keeping every song sonically dynamic, proof that you can perform at slower paces while still differentiating the moods and arrangements. Going from a much doomier platform in “The Grand Circle” to something more atmospheric, open, and spacious while still being devastatingly heavy for “Just Breathe” takes conscious thought, retooling, and reflection – and the quintet elevate the genre’s output as a result.
Vocally and lyrically, Paul Kuhr draws from his well of personal observations and experiences and comes at the listener with this duality of soft, clean, low clearness and then the passionate death growls that in turn convey a wide range of feelings and emotions. People will hang on every word ‘that no one hears’ during the brilliant 9:28 mind twister “The Silent Dark” while his pleas for ‘peace’ and attention to the ‘circle of life’ during another head crusher “Unrest” aurally careen against this growl/clean, verse/chorus see-saw act throughout. Normally a 68-minute album would find me struggling to keep astute observation, but once again these veterans understand the art of taking the listener on a proper journey – high and lows and all the space in between – so give Bled White a few intense sessions and you will feel the depth of its musicality.
Where does it stand in the catalog? Time will tell, but for my money, there isn’t a better band going today who can perform death/doom with reverence and affinity quite like Novembers Doom.